Did Joachim Low take an unnecessary risk calling up Draxler & Gundogan for Germany's pre-Euro 2012 squad?

The trainer made some surprising selections for his preliminary team for Euro 2012, prompting the question of whether he is jeopardising the present as he looks to the long-term
By Clark Whitney | German Football Editor

Julian Draxler, Ilkay Gundogan, Marc-Andre ter Stegen ... reading through the names of Joachim Low's preliminary Germany squad for Euro 2012, one might have mistaken it for an Under-21 side.

All three players have been recent calls to Rainer Adrion's youth team, but among them, only Gundogan has earned a senior cap: a six-minute outing that ensured his loyalty to the country of his birth, ending speculation that he might instead choose to represent Turkey.

The practice of bringing young, inexperienced players into the senior set-up before a major international tournament is no news from Low, who in 2010 named the uncapped Dennis Aogo and Holger Badstuber in his World Cup squad. The latter failed, albeit out of position in a left-back role, and was soon replaced. The former only played one match, the third-place play-off, and left much to be desired. On the other hand, relative newcomer Thomas Muller was a resounding success.

Low initially hoped to announce his final, 23-man squad on Monday, but due to the absence of Dortmund and Real Madrid players until next week, as well as the unavailability of Bayern Munich's contingent until near the end of the month, the trainer was forced to expand his selection. Instead of taking the opportunity to explore alternatives to his usual team, the trainer has opted to look two years ahead, towards the 2014 World Cup.



J. Draxler
M. Hanke
P. Helmes
S. Kiessling
*Stats for all professional club competitions in 2011-12
With all due respect for his talent, Draxler is not ready to compete at Euro 2012, and surely will not make the final cut. The 18-year-old has developed this season, and has all the makings of a future star. However, with Muller, Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski, Marco Reus, Mario Gotze and Andre Schurrle all ahead of him in the pecking order, he can serve no immediate role in the German team. The purpose of nominating Draxler was to introduce and integrate him into the squad for future use: a curious decision given that a major tournament kicks off in exactly one month.

Thinking more to the immediate future, Low had the option to try multiple alternatives in the centre of attack, an area in which real competition exists, and which could have an effect on Euro 2012. Low named just three centre forwards to his 27-man squad: Miroslav Klose, Mario Gomez, and Cacau. The former two are clear favourites for the first and second-choice positions, but the third-string has been a hot talking point, as there is no definite best option. And given Gomez's previous blunders in a Germany shirt, the option behind him and Klose could earn considerable minutes.

Since 2009, Cacau has scored six goals in 22 appearances for country, a modest tally. His scoring rate for Stuttgart this season was slightly better, 11 strikes in 37 selections. By comparison, Mike Hanke scored as many Bundesliga goals as the Stuttgart man this campaign, and his performances led Monchengladbach to an incredible fourth-placed finish in the Bundesliga. Stefan Kiessling and Patrick Helmes both netted more than Cacau, and were in red-hot form in the final weeks of the club season.

It would have only been sensible for Low to call up at least one of Hanke, Helmes, and Kiessling to his preliminary squad to offer some competition, but curiously, the trainer looked ahead and instead nominated Draxler, who could just as easily have been called up for a friendly after Euro 2012. It was a bold decision by Low to choose Cacau without any alternatives, and perhaps one he will later rue.

Ter Stegen, by contrast, is a reasonable inclusion for Low because the Gladbach starlet will genuinely compete with Ron-Robert Zieler and Tim Wiese for a back-up role as goalkeeper. Some may question the decision to choose him ahead of Bernd Leno, but Low could only name one of the young goalkeepers. In the end, he opted for the shot-stopper who had a quieter year behind an impressive defence, rather than the man who saved his team many points behind a shaky defence: given Germany's expectations for the tournament and beyond, it was a wise choice.

On the other hand, Draxler, and to a lesser extent, Gundogan - who will be behind Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira at the very least - might have been an ill-advised selection. A flawless Euro 2012 qualifying campaign and wins in many high-profile friendlies can go a long way, but no team is perfect. Low would have been wiser to have saved at least Draxler's call-up for a later date, and borught in another striker to compete with Cacau. Perhaps with a bit too much confidence in his mind, Low has taken an unnecessary gamble, one with little pay-out and a chance - albeit slim - of costing him. History will soon decide whether it was hubris or merely an acceptable risk.

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